Notes on taking my 18 x 4ft banks dory out for a 2 day row on 25 and 26 of January 2010. With the strong winds and a bit of a swell I found it a bit tough, but I managed.
Monday, wind was coming from my 10 O'colck position, mostly to the side,
but with a little headwind. I got out through the 2ft surf no problem. rowing in
a seaway with a 2 to 3ft swell was hard work. The boat moves a lot, is hard to
get rythym. I think one problem was that my oar blades are too wide at 14cm. I think I need
a set with wide blades for calm conditions on the river, and a set with much
narrower blades for the bay. Port Phillp bay is big, abuot 50 x 40km, so the
waves have some distance to pick up energy.
The wind was blowing me towards a sandy shore, so any problems I would be able
to get out without overly endagering myself. My oar leathers are getting old and need replacing.
My ten dollar set of rowlocks were OK, but I think I will spend the $50 and buy
a good set of WC rowlocks. Also a set which has a line, as a couple of times
some of the oars came out of the rowlocks. The boat handled things better than I expected, especially as almost all waves
were coming fron abeam of the boat.
Going into the wind to a degree and the swell made it all hard work. I was going
slow, maybe 1.5km/h, hard to say, but not fast at all. I have a recently added 60L bow trim and buoynacy tank, which was filled with
about 40L of water. I had the motor and 15L of water aft. The puropse of these
is to reduce windage.
Eventually I rounded Altona Pier and followed teh waves in. Fortunatly I had a
degree to control and went in straight. I had a wave break over my transom, and
I watched in amusement as a good 10L of water actually flowed over the top of my
transom into the boat. This is the first time ever I have been pleased to have
the highly sloped transom that comes with the 'little sister' banks dory. After a while of resting and getting a coffee fix I rowed out again. It was hard
work, the wind had moderated from about 20 to 25 knots that were blowing earlier
in the day to approx 15 knots. I got out OK, and then went an extra 200 yards
out before starting the motor. The swell for all this day was about 2 to 3ft
with waves moving quite quickly, there was the occasional white cap but nothing
My hands were hurting as I was not used to rowing. I got blisters on my palms
from rowing, this si because I am soft and not toughened up. Some people have
said I should wear gloves when rowing, but this is not done is it? Eventually I got the motor started and headed off to Point Cook with the motor
in the well. I actually found this more stressful than rowing, am not sure why.
I put my life jacket on when under motor and held onto the gunnel. I kept the
throttle very very low so as to minimsie the motion of my dory. The dory moved
around alot and it is disconcerting to be in those conditions by oneself roughly
1km out to sea. Possibly more psychological than physical concerns.
I made a few small stuff ups. I forgot the thermos of tea. I forgot the bungs
for the bow trim / buoyancy tank, and I forgot my wetsuit. The wetsuit is my
contigency, if the boat flipps over, I forget about the boat, put on my wetsuit
and swim to shore. Apart from the tank for which i forgot bungs for, there are
separate large buoyancy tanks fore and aft. On reaching shore about dusk I flipped the boat on its side to empty the bow
tank of water, then I was able to drag the lighter boat up the beach above the
high tide mark. I slept under a tarpaulin at Point cook behind the sand dunes.
no wind early on but got windy as I set off a bit before noon. Wind was from aft a little and mostly abeam. I rowed all teh way from Point Cook
to Newport. Waves were quite sizeable for me around 3ft mark and moving quikly.
I was able to get quite a good pace up in rowing. I kept going, slowly but
steadily. At first I was protected by a headland and all was easy, after a
while it got concerning, but was more psychological than physical
These big waves would approach the boat side on, they would slide under and I
would go on as before, quite weird really. I guess that is what the flare of the
banks dory is all about. I had a couple of waves with a bit of a whitecap on them hit me, and I got
splashed a bit, nothing too much to worry about. About 2/3 the way across the
waves were biggger than beofer or after. One wave broke across and over the
boat. The boat leaned a bit away from the wave and water went over teh boat. But
when the boat righted there was only about 2L of water in teh boat. Quite
amazing how little water got in. When i used the same boat as a mulithull I once
got hit by a wave and I had 6 inches of water in the boat in 2 seconds. It is
true that those were worse conditions than these.
The boat was always rowing too and froe, sometimes a wave would lift the stern
or the bow, and veer me off course, I just concentrated on keeping a good course
and on good oar technique. I dont think I ever looked to see what the bow was
doing. I knew it was there, just never turned around to see it.
One some waves the boat would be pushed sideways and kinda slip with the motion
of the wave. I guess this has to a bit to do with only having a keel that is an
inch deep. One power boat came up alongside and asked if I was OK, I said I was. I guess
they are not used to seeing open rowboats out there in those conditions. I would estimate wind at 20 knots.
Eventually I got to the entrance to teh inlet where I pull in. There is a bar
there, I decided to go in bow first as I did in Altona. I managed to broach.
This was no big deal as water was shallow at knee deep and waves had lost a bit
of their impact by the time they got to where I was. The dory skidded sideways
on this breaking wave, but not water came in. I thought the dory might flip and
dig it, but it did not.
After this I had thoughts about maybe it is best to go in stern first and go in
backwards, as do the cobles of East Coast of England. I got back all well and good.
In the inlet I spoke to some fellows who were sailing a Ruel Parker 19ft sharpie, a nice boat kept in shed 13 there.
When I got home I thought about the way the dory slided off some of those bad
waves, and how it seemed to always manage to stay dry. I am more impressed with
boat that I was earlier. Looking through my boat books I think a lot of it has
to do with slack bilges. In Ian Oughtred's catalog he has a design called and
Elf. Based on what I learnt during my modest 2 day trip, that boat looks about
right to me, looks seaworthy. In his notes he says that the design he drew (it is a faering) comes from the
east coast of scandinavia, apparently the faerings from teh west coast have even
more slack bilges. Thus if I go via logic, a very seaworthy craft for bad conditions in Port
Phillip Bay and optimised for rowing as opposed to sailing would look like the
Elf (a 15ft x 4ft4' faering) and have even more slack bilges. Personally I would
all heaps of buoynacy-watertight storage compartments. I find that in those
conditions, physically I was OK, but psychogically I was outside my comfort
This was my fist rowing trip outside of a river. I guess it is all about
toughening myself up and gaining real world experience. I will make some changes
to the oars, to the leathers, and some very small adjustmetns to the boat.
I learnt a lot
got some good exercise
started to toughen myslef up a bit